If you'll give me a minute, let me ask you a question: Why do we spend so much attention on discovering our spiritual gifts? Sure, one might say it's for learning to serve the Lord better, or word to that effect, but is that the question the Lord wants us asking? I've found the answers I get most readily from the Lord are the ones He wants the most to answer, so if He's not answering, then maybe I need to re-think my asking.
We have books, seminars, sermons and probably college courses today to answer that question, but hardly anybody is heard to say they know because the Lord told them. Could it be that we're looking to the “experts” because we're not getting the answers we want from the Lord? Could this actually be a distraction from our knowing and serving Him as we should? Here's what I'm thinking.
The Bible says a lot about spiritual gifts, but they're always mentioned secondary to various ministries, or to the worship and fellowship of the Church. Most of the profile tests used to “discern” one's gifts are just that: psychological profiles that will categorise one's personal leanings, whether to nurture, or lead, or administer. Some will even interpret an aptitude for languages as the “gift of tongues!”
Just like the Apostles were speaking in languages they had no way of knowing from their own experience, the other gifts,(or, graces) of the Spirit are just that – gifts graciously given us by God without any help from you or me. Not by works, or by our natural inclinations, but according to His good pleasure. (Notice that Peter and John, two fishermen by trade, healed the lame man, and Dr. Luke recorded the event!)
So what is the plan? Let me suggest this: Pray about it, check it out, and let me know what happens: Rather than “discovering” your gifts (which God has no place told us to do), seek to confirm your calling. Whatever the Lord is calling us to do, we can be sure He will make the right giftings available to us to make it happen. Is He calling you to visit a sick person? Then obey that calling, and seek, from Him, the gifts you will need to best bring glory to His name in that visit. It might be giftings of mercy, wisdom, a word of knowledge, maybe healings. None of that depends on your personality type, but on His delight in working with you, and your willingness to respond to His leading.
Somebody might say, “But that's different! I want to know about my gifts so I can understand what God's plan is for my life!” If we look in James 1, we see a principle for guidance that too often we overlook. James wrote, “if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not...” God is more eager to tell us than we are to know! He even promises not to chide us for our ignorance, but to freely fill us in on all the details (as I read it...) that we are in a position to receive. So how do we get into that position? “Let him ask in faith!” Be ready to obey, not just to consider the “options,” and expect Him to make sure you know the plan. Maybe we look at those profile tests so we can look over our “career options,” rather than committing ourselves to unconditional obedience. Maybe we feel more comfortable dealing with our own, familiar, selves than confronting the totally Other, completely holy, living God “with Whom we have to do.”
Think of Isaiah, serving in the Temple. He was probably at a pretty low point, just after the righteous king, Uzziah, had died, not knowing what would come next. Faced with the holiness of God, he surrendered to it, and his heart was filled with one desire: “Here I am. Send me!” And Isaiah became one of the Lord's greatest prophets.
Maybe we can say that the right question might not be, “What has God given me,” but, “What have I given Him?” Romans 12 talks about us offering to Him our “souls and bodies” as a “living sacrifice.” Is my “all” on the altar? Right now? Really? A careful look through Matthew 5 – 7 is a good place to start in seeing just what kind of Christian I really am, and how the Spirit wants to guide me into His fullness.
God wants to give us far more than we can imagine wanting. There are no shortcuts, though, easy answers or worldly solutions to spiritual gifting. To truly receive the gifts God wants you to have there are three “steps” to getting there. One is surrender. Giving up on our own plans and conditions to let the Lord give us His. You might say that we plan, but God knows. The next is to sanctify. We set our lives apart for God, away from the influences of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and God receives that gift and confirms it, by His Spirit, away from the influences of the world the flesh, and the devil. A holy vessel is one set apart to carry holy things, and a life free in Christ from the world's influences is a life free to influence the world for Christ.
So, then, what gifts are ours? The best ones! After a long discussion about gifts, and their uses, the Spirit tells us in 1 Corinthians 14, “Desire the best gifts!” Whatever gifts the Lord, in His wisdom, sees that we need, those gifts we can ask, and receive, from His hand!
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Thessalonians 5:23